DIY Car Detailing: All You Ever Wanted To Know About How To Detail a Car
If car detailing is a foreign notion for you, this article will give you some useful tips and tricks on how to detail a car and what products to use when looking after your beloved possession.
Do you know the feeling you get within those first few weeks since purchasing your car? That feeling of pride knowing you’ve wanted that specific car for such a long time and that it has finally arrived?
Well, now it’s here. That shiny, new vehicle is now parked in front of your house, waiting for you in the supermarket parking lot, comfortably sitting in your work-designated parking space.
The seats are soft and comfortable, the leather is top-quality and scratch-free, the smell of the car is to be remembered, and the shine is enviable.
Oh, the shine! You can see your own reflection, surfaces are as smooth as they can be, and the car just looks like it took a quick detour from the showroom. Just what professionals advertise when they boast about their car detailing skills.
As Time Passes By…
Years or even months later, you notice the vehicle is a bit more worn down and faded.
The car seats are not what they used to be, the new-car smell is not there anymore, and the paint coating is more lackluster. You can see now on the surface how marks have started showing and how the paint has lost its intensity. Micro-scratches have also made their way onto the exterior, and you simply don’t get that amazing feeling anymore.
There’s no more novelty, no more excitement, no more showroom-pride. Instead, you can even detect a feeling of disappointment for having paid so much money on what now seems to need additional money in order to look great again.
Where do you even start to detail it? Do you take it to professional detailers who really know how to display their car detailing skills? Could it even look as good as it once did? Can you do it yourself? If so, do you need to burn through your finances or can you get the budget version?
The questions keep rolling and the solutions may seem difficult to grasp. Thankfully there is a solution — and an accessible one!
And Here’s The Good News
The good news is that detailing is something you can do all by yourself, in the privacy of your own garage, or by the curb, with minimal costs. Of course, not a lot of people know this.
Most car owners think this can only be done by professionals at prohibitive costs, which typically scares them away. Car detailing can sometimes turn into an intimidating process to many, and that’s mostly because of it not being properly understood.
Having said this, the best-kept secret about owning a car is that maintaining it shiny and clean does not have to be an impossible task. On the contrary, it’s quite an easy feat if you know all the ins and outs, and you can get through a detailing process all by yourself while also getting the quality results you hope for.
Today, we will pull back the curtain on this fascinating process and delve deeper into its secrets. We’ll take a closer look at what car detailing is and how you can do it by yourself at home. Plus, we’ll share with you some of our best tips on how to complete this process efficiently, so you can get excellent results and what the costs round up to.
Still wondering how to detail a car? Read on to discover all this and hopefully, you’ll know then what the next step for you could be in car care. Roll up your sleeves! You may very well become a car detailing pro by the end of this article.
What Is a Full Detail On a Car?
When talking about detailing a vehicle, we’re talking about the full-blown process that covers the entire car, not only parts of it. In other words, when talking about car detailing, we’re saying that most parts of a vehicle are covered in the cleaning process.
More surfaces are taken into consideration to be cleaned. If you pay close attention, you’ll see your vehicle is made up of different types of surfaces that each need their own special care. We’re talking about surfaces including vinyl and plastic, apart from other more obvious ones.
Having said this, the car detailing process cannot start without a proper exterior wash done with professional soap. This is especially recommended if you want as little damage to the surface of your car as possible. After fully washing your car, professionals typically use a clay bar to remove any other marks that couldn’t be removed with the soap.
The wheels and wheel wells will also be completely cleaned and dressed, while the door jambs will also be cleaned. The tires will not be overlooked either during this advanced cleaning process. The windows will also be cleaned well enough, so they eventually get that squeaky shine to them.
Up For Going The Extra Mile?
Going the extra mile would mean opting for car waxing, polishing, and, if you want a magazine-like gloss and durable protection, also ceramic coating.
Car detailing doesn’t need to only resume to a quick wash and wipe. It’s so much more than this, and it can also serve to protect your car in the long run.
The interior of the car also gets the full attention it needs to become sparkly clean again. The interior surface gets wiped down to remove any hardened grime, dirt, and other contaminants that have made it look worse than it did in the beginning. Cleaning the interior of the car also refers to cleaning the seats and the upholstery.
This is what full detailing is all about. You can expect your car to look and feel clean both in and out. There is still some confusion regarding the subject of detailing and what this process truly delivers for your car, but we’ll soon get to the bottom of things in this article.
What Do You Need To Know About Car Detailing?
Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about car detailing is that you may find vehicle detailing services to differ wildly from one detailer to another.
This is because there’s actually no clear-cut definition of what full car detailing entails. While one detailer may consider something too specialized to include in their package, another will consider absolutely normal and fitting.
It varies, and it can leave your head spinning, making you not know how to choose anymore.
But who really does have the “proper” list of detailing services, and who doesn’t?
When choosing the services of a professional detailer, you can expect to get a custom set of car care services. On the other hand, if you are going for DIY car detailing, you’ll discover how you get to create your own list of priorities.
Because of these differences on the market, it’s only natural that you’ll also get varying prices for your detailing package. But, we’ll talk more on this later on in this article. We’ll talk about detailing pricing as well, since it’s essential to know what you can get for your money and the reasoning behind these price differences.
The best part about it is that you can very well do your own car detailing with little cost and by yourself. You just need to follow a concise list of steps while ensuring you have some tools and materials like sponges, detailing brushes, and buckets at your disposal, to assist the job at hand.
Is Detailing a Car Worth It?
Car owners really don’t have it all easy, even though it may seem so. Making it so that you can keep your car looking glossy and beautiful is not that easy. Especially since there are plenty of factors contributing to its deterioration, both inside and outside. This is where car detailing steps in and turns things around.
For one, the paint will fade out and lose its shine. Again, this is not something that car owners can prevent from happening since there are many reasons why car paint can become duller, as it’s likely just been affected by the road and its contaminants. Before you can understand what car detailing can do for you, let’s take a look at what happens to your car over the course of a few months and even a few years.
All sorts of contaminants will impact the integrity of your car’s paint, leave marks all over the surface of your car, and even change the aesthetic of the interior. Without proper car detailing, there’s only so much you can do about all these issues.
It may seem like you’re in safe hands whenever you go to professional cleaners, but there are hidden and unexpected enemies that can harm the surfaces of your car. The cleaners you can find there can sometimes be too abrasive and leave marks on your car’s paint coat, on the wheels, on the windshield glass, and mirrors.
Micro-scratches can be a nightmare. They are barely visible at first, but in time they will deepen and accumulate dirt and grime. Often caused by abrasive cleaners, there’s little you can do about them. In time, the car’s surface will simply deteriorate. These are especially prevalent when you go to automatic car washes.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all auto cleaning products are to be avoided, we just want you to pay increased attention to the type of products you buy and make an educated purchase, especially when you want to do DIY car detailing.
The sun is also one powerful enemy that car owners will always have to deal with regularly. Having said this, the harmful UV rays of the sun are the silent killers of your car’s paint. Week after week, month after month, year after year, repeated sun exposure will lead to something that’s called oxidation, which is extremely damaging to the paint’s integrity.
Oxidation gradually breaks down the clear coat, which is meant to protect the actual paint coat, and slowly makes its way to the factory paint. In time, in the most severe cases, what is left behind is a spot of absolutely faded paint that leaves the metal exposed.
Not even proper car detailing can save you then.
At that point, there’s very little you can do about it, except perhaps a complete car paint restoration, which you can read more about on our blog.
Another rarely talked-about reason behind why vehicles tend to lose their glow and novel aspect is pollution. In heavily populated geographical areas, air pollution is a serious issue and it’s actually largely caused by other cars and their exhaust fumes.
But it’s just air, right? Yes, but also no. It’s not only air. It’s air filled with whatever fuel hasn’t fully been burned by other cars, so it’s quite harsh. Both for breathing and for the integrity of your car’s paint.
Pollution is, in fact, one of the main factors behind car paint oxidation — and a quite unavoidable one.
Who would even think to put salt on this list of damaging factors? We would. How so? Salt is another culprit behind car paint oxidation. Frequently, it represents an issue in cities located by the sea or ocean, where the air is usually saltier.
The thing with salt is that if it stays too long on the surface of your car, it will eat away at the clear coat and reach straight for the paint coat. Once it does this, there’s no turning back since it causes rust, which is a relentless car paint killer. Having said this, regular car detailing will prolong your car’s life and will keep all these serious issues at bay for the longest time.
Other Dangerous Contaminants
It’s not all fun and games for car owners! The list of dangerous contaminants doesn’t end here. In fact, there are also other types of factors you should know about.
Rock chips tend to bounce back from the road and straight onto your car’s paint coat. They will sometimes leave slightly perceptible marks, and other times they will straight on cut deep into your car’s paint coat.
Apart from this, dust will also settle on your car regardless of where you are, how often you drive, and the climate in your area.
If left on for too long, dust will also serve to scratch your vehicle. Before you know it, your car will look beaten down and older than it actually is, and there’s nothing that car detailing can do about it. This is why you’ll need to do this regularly before anything too serious happens to your car. Think of it as a prevention treatment for your car.
Bird droppings are also a common occurrence on the roads, and there’s no way for you to prevent them. The bad news about bird droppings is they are acidic, making them pretty corrosive so they will dig right through your clear coat, ready to further attack the factory paint.
Even if you rinse them right away, sometimes it may be too late to prevent their effects.
Compound residue may also remain behind, attacking the clear coat of your car and the paint shortly after. There really are too many contaminant types to mention, and they all eventually take a toll on your car’s paint.
However, the key takeaway here is that regular full car detailing can actually keep these issues at bay, making them less probable and making you a happier car owner for a longer time.
This is because a full detailing session offers all the cleaning and protection you need to get back on the road, knowing that contaminants have been removed and your car’s surface is less prone to damage.
The question still stands: Is detailing a car worth it? In short, yes, it absolutely is worth it for any car owner, regardless of the brand or year of the car. These details matter less than what you would think.
If done properly, full car detailing can serve as a type of preventive treatment for your car and shield it from the vagaries of the road.
What Are The Steps To DIY Car Detailing?
Since we’ve already spoken about the benefits of car detailing, we should also talk about the process of detailing itself and what the exact steps are to completing it successfully all by yourself.
Where do you even start, and what are the supplies you need? You can start by doing the exterior of the car, and we’ll soon talk about detailing the interior of the car as well.
Start by giving your car a thorough rinse that can remove all visible and more difficult dirt and grime. Everything that has stuck to the surface of your car should easily just slide down. This will clear the path for a proper wash and the next steps of the car detailing process.
2. Wash The Wheels
Don’t forget about the wheels, since they also tend to gather lots of stubborn debris.
3. Wash The Entire Car Thoroughly
Make sure to use a professional soap or shampoo. Steer clear of dish detergent or anything similar. This is not meant for car care and will certainly bring unwanted damage. Use a bucket with clean water and another with a soap one. Use a wash mitt and start from the top of your car and go all the way down.
Yup. Simply rinse the car once more.
Dry the car with soft, tag-free microfiber towels to ensure there are no water spots left on your car.
6. Use a Clay Bar.
Another important part of the detailing process is to use a clay bar on the car once it’s fully dried. This is the only way to get the car detailing results you’re hoping for.
7. Wax Your Car
Get a high-quality natural wax — if possible, carnauba wax — and an applicator pad, and begin to apply the wax in small, circular motions. Remove it by using a soft microfiber cloth. This gives your car a clearer shine and another layer of protection over the factory paint and the clear coat.
8. Polish Your Car
You don’t necessarily need to do this too, but if you want that enviable shine, polishing is for you. Many people think that car polishing is just another way to refer to car waxing, but it’s not. While waxing serves to protect the car from further damages to the paint coat, polishing just gives the car the extra shine that makes you a prouder car owner. As you can see, proper car detailing is more than just meets the eye.
9. Ceramic Coat Your Car
As we’ve said before, if you really want to perform a full professional detailing session by yourself, you should really consider applying ceramic coating as well.
Not many people know about ceramic coating, which is one of the best car care techniques around. What it actually does is that it efficiently applies a full coat of shine and protection to your car, offering much more than regular waxing and polishing. It basically acts like a sealant.
Thankfully you can easily do this by yourself too, granted you invest all your dedication and passion in the process while also using a premium product that makes all the difference in terms of quality.
Our ceramic coating recommendation is the Nexgen Ceramic Spray that is a cut above rest, thanks to its high silicon dioxide (SiO2) composition.
While other similar products on the market contain only up to 1% SiO2, the spray from Nexgen offers a whopping 13% composition, which considerably increases the level of protection it offers. Use this if you want to master the absolute full car detailing process.
Having said this, all the steps we’ve described above are everything you need to know about detailing the exterior of your car. As we’ve said, the interior of your car is an entirely different story, so let’s look at how you can do this as well:
Detailing Your Car’s Interior
1. Clean The Interior
Get a high-quality interior car care spray, get a few microfiber towels handy and use them to wipe the panels and other parts of your vehicle’s interior. Pay extra attention to the steering wheel, the armrests, and the door handles, as these are all high-touch and probably very dirty.
You can’t skip this part if you want the full car detailing experience! This is the exact type of service that professional detailers offer too.
2. Clean The Seats Of Your Car
Whether your seats are dressed in leather or clothed in upholstery, be sure you can find the appropriate spray or product on the market to clean them right.
3. Vacuum And Clean the Carpet
Remove all the mats of your car and thoroughly vacuum the carpet underneath to ensure you get all the dirt out. While you’re there, use a carpet cleaner to remove any stains or marks from your carpet.
4. Wash The Floor Mats
Since you’ve already taken the mats out, be sure to wash them as well.
5. Clean The Glass
If you’ve only washed the outside of your car’s windows, you still can’t expect to see all that well. It’s only after you wash the inside of the windows too that you get perfect visibility. Use a special product, a soft cloth, and get the windows shining again as if the car was brand new. This is how you complete a total car detailing experience!
6. Apply a Deodorizer
It’s indeed hard to replicate that fresh new car smell. But you can try and use an auto deodorizer which will give the interior a fresh scent and feel.
All these steps of the process will certainly take a few hours to complete for sure, but what happens at the end will make it all worth it. You’ll get a car that looks and feels brand new, and all signs of wear and tear will have mostly been removed.
The satisfaction you ultimately get from achieving this all on your own is difficult to trump and you’ll stand loud and proud!
How Much Does It Cost To Get a Car Detailed?
Now that we’ve shown you how to detail a car with minimum fuss in the privacy of your own neighborhood, we can also have the real money talk, since this is important as well.
In the car detailing business, prices will vary depending on the professional you choose, the products they use, and the exact services they offer. If you want a decent experience, expect to pay anywhere from $50 – $150.
When you do it by yourself, your costs can be in the same range, depending on the products you get and their prices. The cost of the rinse and wash won’t be high, your wash mitt and buckets are a minimum investment too, but it all comes down to the wax, polish and ceramic coat products you’ll use.
Nexgen Ceramic Spray is $20, the carnauba wax is around the same price, and the polishing compound can also fit this price comfortably.
DIY car detailing is often less expensive than professional detailing. Considering the additional costs for the pad, the microfiber towels, the clay bar, and the professional wash soap, we can estimate your total costs to reach around $70 – $100. Remember that a lot of your products will be able to be used again, so you can subtract costs from your next detailing.
If you think about it, all these products we’ve considered are high-quality, so this total price is more than reasonable.
When you draw the line, you save important money that adds up over time, especially since full detailing needs to be done regularly. All this saved up money can ultimately go into further investments in the car – like upgrades or repair costs.
A full car detailing session can be done at home with high chances of achieving perfect results. So no need to worry at all since it doesn’t require any experience!
All you need to do is follow the steps above, invest in the right car care products, give it all your attention, passion and dedication, and you’re on the right path to ideal car care.
The best part about it, and what we wanted to show you today, is that you don’t necessarily have to go to professionals to have your car detailed. On the contrary, you can do everything by yourself and still expect the same fantastic results!
If you have any questions at all about the process of DIY car detailing, or have more questions on how to detail a car, don’t hesitate to contact us. Give us a call, and we’ll tell you all about it!
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